China will deepen its ties with Africa over the next decade by focusing on trade, and is unlikely to be dislodged by the US and European Union’s attempts to re-engage with the continent, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

China is likely to keep investing in Africa’s natural resources and boost its expenditure on agriculture, the EIU said in its report released yesterday.

Asia may see Africa’s youthful population as a source of cheap labour for its manufacturing companies and as a market for its consumer goods.

China plans to surpass the EU as Africa’s biggest trade partner by 2030, and western powers will struggle to catch up, the EIU said.

Their relations with the continent are complicated by Europe’s colonial history with Africa and distrust of their intentions due to erratic engagement.

‘Question marks are also being raised in Africa over the motives behind the re-engagement of the EU and US,’ the EIU said. These raise memories of past failed commitments and are viewed merely as a desire to counter Chinese influence rather than work with African business partners, according to the EIU.

Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are also trying to build relations with the continent.

The EU and African Union held a summit in February, and US President Joe Biden has called for a meeting with African leaders in December.

China has spent two decades cultivating its political and economic relations with Africa and stronger ties could now benefit its economy, even as slowing growth may restrain investment in the continent.

From 2020 to 2021, bilateral trade between China and Africa rose by 35% to $254 billion; African exports reached a record $106 billion, according to Chinese government statistics. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest importer from China while South Africa is the biggest exporter.